Magneto 2.0 Jeep Rapid Drive Review: The Evolving Experience

One year ago, I tested the Jeep Magneto concept in Moab, Utah. Amazing because it was exotic, the Magneto was our first look at what an all-electric Wrangler might look like when it hits the market. But with primitive battery technology and limited power output, Jeep declared it far from complete, even as a concept.

I’m glad to be back among the stunning red rocks of Moab with a more advanced (and exciting) EV: the Jeep Wrangler Magneto 2.0. With plenty of power and off-road upgrades, the Magneto 2.0 brings us closer to the ultimate EV Wrangler we all hope to see on these tracks in the future.

I took the updated Magneto concept on a short trip and spoke with Jeep Brand President of North America, Jim Morrison, about the company’s electric efforts. To see the full interview and driving shots, check out the video embedded above.

Jeep Wrangler Magneto 2.0 Concept

More from Magneto

It would be rude to provoke an improvement in strength and not present it immediately. Higher than the first’s 285-horsepower engine, the Magneto 2.0 produces a whopping 625 horsepower and 825 pound-feet from a single custom-built electric motor at the front. This time around there’s a 70 kWh battery pack, made up of four different split cells for better weight distribution, and works on an 800 volt geometry.

Taking all that juice is a six-speed manual transmission sourced from a Hellcat supercharger with a first gear ratio reduced from 5.13 to 3.36. Jeep installed a Wangler Rubicon Rock-Trac transfer case to give optimum Magneto torque to all four wheels, along with solid Dana front and rear hubs and massive King coilover shocks.

The Magneto 2.0 wheelbase is 12 inches longer than the standard JL two-door, and it rolls on 40 inches of rubber. Even without the brutal selective torque on display, this is indeed a very capable Jeep on hardware alone. But as I soon learned, the electricity running through it only improves its capabilities.

internal magnetic

Low and slow, over the rocks we go

With Jeep boss and fellow off-road enthusiast Jim Morrison seated next to me, I threw the car into first gear and sprinted down the boulder-covered track. While Jeep has confirmed that the Magneto is indeed capable of lighting its fairly large tires, today’s experience will be all about low torque and negotiating tough rock formations.

With no doors or a roof, the cabin of the Magento is exposed to everything around it, giving you plenty of remote-controlled car sounds like the hum from the front axle. Apply more throttle and the noise becomes louder. This is one feature, among many others, that I wouldn’t expect to make with a production version.

On that note, it won’t be a six-speed manual transmission, which is an odd addition to the EV anyway. The clutch only serves to move the shift knob between gears, otherwise it doesn’t serve much of a purpose. And with plenty of torque available, you can practically run the Magneto in any gear to remove it from the line, too. While the manual is a fun experiment in a prototype car, a possible alternative would be a two-speed automatic or two-speed automatic when this car goes on sale.

Magnetic tire size

What will be production related, however, is Magneto’s initial appetite for off-road driving. Morrison admitted that a 40-inch tire package would probably be out of the question, but any electric Wrangler would have to tackle the toughest terrain, just like a 4xe plug-in. This means that bits like solid hubs and transfer case are almost sure bets for the future. With competitors like the R1T and Hummer EV in space now, Jeep knows it needs a Wrangler to emulate them—and go even further—off-road.

Without getting the Magneto out of low range, it was impossible to feel the full potential of the powertrain. The obvious result was just how proficient the electric torque was when crawling at low speed. After driving a V8 Wrangler just minutes before the Magneto, the difference in smoothness between the two was day and night.

I felt the same about the Magneto brake regeneration system. While this has obvious uses on public roads, its primary role in the desert has been to slow the jeep’s speed when descending. Gas-powered SUVs have had hill-slope control for years now, but the Magento brake restoration worked better than any of the ones I tested. And with the added advantage of retrieving the range in the wild, it’s a true win-win scenario.

Jeep Wrangler Magneto 2.0 Concept

The moment is approaching

It’s no secret that an electric Wrangler is coming and that it will be significantly different from both versions of the Magneto Concept that I’ve driven. Some might view this concept vehicle as a silly powertrain trade-off with some hardware upgrades, but the Magneto is a true mobile laboratory for Jeep engineers. They drive through Moab, as I did, pointing out what works and what doesn’t.

Much about the Magneto still doesn’t make sense as an electric car. Manual transmissions, battery cells stacked high under the hood, huge truck tires… the list goes on. But the concept’s real mission is to preach electric off-roading to Jeep fans and to underscore that this is the brand’s future. If they end up building something with half the magic of Magneto, it will have a happy future.